PGC bluebird nestbox camera, take two

Harrisburg
Following the successful fledging of four bluebird chicks about
two weeks ago, a pair of bluebirds wasted no time in getting on
with a second nest that can be viewed through a live webcast on the
Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us). The live video
feed from a bluebird nestbox on the grounds of the Game
Commission’s Harrisburg Headquarters can be viewed by clicking on
the “Bluebird Live-Feed” icon under the opening photo in the center
of the homepage.

“It is not uncommon
for bluebirds to re-nest after successfully fledging chicks from a
first nest,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. 
“We are thrilled to see that the bluebird pair built a second nest,
and already have begun to lay eggs. Those who continue to check in
on this webcast will be just as pleased to follow
along.

“The best way to get
Pennsylvanians – in fact most Americans – excited about wildlife is
to show them what makes wildlife so irreplaceable and priceless. 
Last year, we established a live webcast from this bluebird nesting
box to help us in our efforts to encourage the public to make
backyards friendlier to wildlife. It has been a huge hit, and we
expect that the broadcasting of this year’s continued activities to
be well received.”

Roe noted that the
nestbox camera provides the public a closer look at the entire
nesting process of bluebirds. Soon after the first chicks fledge,
the original nesting material was removed to reduce the chance that
any parasites could remain in the nest box, and to encourage a
second nesting effort.

 

Steps are taken to deter house
sparrows – a non-native species – from using the nestbox by
mounting monofilament fishing line from the roof over the entrance
hole, which compels sparrows to stay away. Bluebird nestboxes
placed close to buildings almost always attract competition from
sparrows, which annually chase native bluebirds from nestboxes and
nesting cavities.

“In the early 1960s,
the eastern bluebird was hanging on for dear life,” said Dan
Brauning, Game Commission Wildlife Diversity Section supervisor.
“The species was suffering from a European invasion of house
sparrows and European starlings. Today, it’s not hard to imagine
the harm that would come from releasing starlings and house
sparrows in New York City during the 1800s. But back then, at a
time when people were trying to reverse declining songbird
populations, it seemed like the right thing to do in New
York.

“The starling spread
quickly across America. Released in 1890 and 1891, starlings were
building nests in California by the 1940s. What our forefathers
didn’t expect, in addition to the rapid range expansion of these
alien species, was that they would almost immediately begin
competing with bluebirds and other beneficial songbirds for cavity
nesting sites.”

Bluebirds were
enjoying a satisfying existence around 1900. It is when some
ornithologists believe Pennsylvania’s bluebird population was at
its largest, because fully two-thirds of the Commonwealth was
farmland. But the runaway populations of starlings and sparrows
would begin to compete with and ultimately cripple the bluebird’s
ability to secure adequate nesting.

The species’ problems
would be further compounded by farmlands reverting to forestland or
being swallowed by development, the increased use of pesticides,
and the replacement of wooden fence-posts with metal
posts.

By 1960, the bottom
was ready to fall out, and the Game Commission and many other
conservation agencies and organizations launched an aggressive
campaign to rescue the species.    With the aid of its Howard
Nursery, the Game Commission manufactured inexpensive bluebird
nestboxes and bluebird nestbox kits for the public to place afield.
Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts became involved, as well as 4-H Clubs,
schools and Audubon chapters. Bluebirds became the poster child for
efforts aimed at getting people to do something for wildlife in
their backyards.

“Today, bluebirds are
back in a big way, even in the southeastern counties, where they
compete heavily with large populations of house sparrows,” Brauning
said. “It’s fair to say that our bluebird population is stronger
today than it has been in 50 years. With time and continued
assistance from caring Pennsylvanians, it seems likely bluebirds
will continue to prosper.”

Categories: Pennsylvania – Jeff Mulhollem

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